Achilles: The Tragic Hero

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When researching heroes of classic literature it is impossible to ignore Achilles from The Iliad by Homer. Starting from the time that his mother Thetis dipped him in the River Styx, making his body practically invincible, it was obvious that the Greeks had a hero in the making (Achilles, 173). His physical strength and persistence to extinguish the Trojan society is untouched by any other figure in mythology (Achilles, 173). In The Iliad Achilles is not only a hero, but a tragic hero who experiences a downfall and realizes that it is a direct result of his actions. Along with this basic definition of what it means to be a tragic hero, there are also three notable characteristics. Tragic heroes exhibit “fatal ignorance”, are “prompted by will or circumstance”, and are involved in a “binding obligation” (Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature, 1126). These three aspects can be synthesized into the idea that tragic heroes make one or more errors, resulting from ignorance or a personal impediment and are obligated to live out their error(s) in the form of a downfall. Achilles in The Iliad by Homer is a tragic hero because he exhibits “fatal ignorance”, is “prompted by will or circumstance”, and is involved in a “binding obligation” throughout the entire poem. Achilles is a tragic hero because he displays ignorance towards his surroundings in The Iliad. At the beginning of the epic, “Achilles is presented with not one but two fates: to die gloriously at Troy or to live anonymously at home” (Harris, 262). With this decision Achilles decides to join the Greek forces and go to war against Troy. This, of course, guarantees his pre-mature death and proves how illogical and unstable his mind was during this time, for h... ... middle of paper ... ... made poor decisions that led to his downfall and could have easily prevented himself from his early death in the Trojan War; this makes him a tragic hero in The Iliad. Works Cited "Achilles." Epics for Students. Ed. Marie Lazzari. Detroit: Gale, 1997. 173. Print. Hamilton, Edith. Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes. Warner Books ed. New York: Warner, 1999. Print. Harris, Stephen L., and Gloria Platzer. Classical Mythology: Images and Insights. 2nd ed. N.p.: Mayfield Publishing Co., 1998. Print. Homer. The Iliad. Trans. W. H. D. Rouse. New York: New American Library, 2007. Print. Knox, Bernard. "Achilles." Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism. Ed. Lynn M. Zott. Vol. 61. Detroit: Gale, 1990. 129-50. Literature Resource Center. Web. 11 Oct. 2015. Merriam-Webster's Encyclopedia of Literature. Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1995. Print.
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